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Old 11-13-2017, 08:41 PM
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Henry US Survival AR-7 Review

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This was a review I wrote for another forum.

Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle

Part 1:

The designed purpose of the AR-7 is for a compact take-down 22 rifle for backpackers and bush pilots who may be forced to hunt small game for subsistence if stranded in the back country. Being it takes apart and stows in its own stock makes it much easier to store in the cramped cockpit of a Super Cub or backpack. This convenience makes it much more likely it will be with you when needed when a conventional rifle would be too big and left behind.
At the time of its introduction in 1959, it was unique and the only thing of its kind on the market. Today, there are other take down 22 rifles out there, but none that store in its own stock and have the ability to float whether assembled or not. Mostly these are a standard rifle to which a quick detach barrel feature has been added. The Marlin Papoose being its closest competitor and the Ruger 10/22 being the newest entry in that field.

Today there are aftermarket accessories for the AR-7 that while they may provide some additional utility for their owners, loses the “everything fits inside the stock” advantage. For a rifle intended to be packed around more than it’s shot, this would seem to be a key virtue. Therefore, the focus of this review will be on the rifle in its original form plus any aftermarket items that may be of interest, but will stow in the stock. Aftermarket accessories such as bull barrels, pistol grip stocks, and optics will be discussed, but I do not intend to purchase any for inclusion in this review.

The ArmaLite AR-7 has its roots in the AR-5 Survival Rifle. This was a bolt action rifle in 22 Hornet that has the distinction of being officially adopted by the Air Force as the MA-1 Survival Rifle, but never issued. Only the 12 examples submitted to the Air Force for testing were ever produced.

ArmaLite sought to recoup their R&D and tooling costs by changing the design to make it a semi auto, and 22LR, and selling it on the commercial market. As the seventh design by the company, it was designated AR-7. ArmaLite did not have the manufacturing capacity for production, and contracted the various parts out to companies in the Los Angeles area. Assembly was done at the ArmaLite location in Costa Mesa, CA.
Rifles sold under the ArmaLite name had either a solid brown plastic stock, or a predominately brown swirl pattern stock that kind of had a camo appearance. The Air Force MA-1 contract called for the rifle to float whether assembled or stowed in the hollow stock and the space between the outer shell and interior storage compartments was foam filled for this purpose. ArmaLite sold the AR-7 in this configuration between 1959 and 1973, at which point they sold the design to Charter Arms. Before GCA 68, you could even mail order one direct from ArmaLite. Original price was $49.95, which is $411 in today’s money. Bud’s sells the black version of the current Henry AR-7 for $235 with free shipping. So, the rifle is a better bargain today than back then.

As with most things in the gun world that have attained the dignity of age, original ArmaLite made AR-7’s command a premium over the other brands. Nice used examples sell for more than a new Henry. If it comes with the original box and owner’s manual, even more.
The rifle made its film debut in the 1963 James Bond movie From Russia with Love where it was suppressed, and again in Goldfinger.

Charter Arms:
From 1973 to 1990, Charter Arms manufactured the AR-7. Quality issues were apparent with early production, and it was never fully sorted out in later production. The Charter Arms guns are the poorest example of the breed and most folks that own them say they have reliability issues, but a few claim their example runs like a top. It’s sad that in a 17 year production run, they couldn’t or wouldn’t bring the quality up.
As far as I can determine, all the CA guns were black metal with a black stock.
Charter also made a pistol version, although its purpose is unclear. Its appearance was that of a Broomhandle Mauser whose clumsiness it also inherited.

US Survival:
US Survival in Cocoa, FL was the next manufacturer to make the AR-7 between 1990 and 1997. These rifles are instantly recognizable as both the metal and stock are silver. Strange color choice for a rifle intended for survival use. With only a seven-year run, you don’t see many of these around. I imagine they had to be better than the Charter, but I’ve never had one to examine to say for sure.

AR-7 Industries:
This outfit out of Meridian, CT made the rifle between 1998 and 2004 when they were bought by ArmaLite. (Mark Westrom acquired the rights to the ArmaLite name back in the 90’s.) To my knowledge, Mark Westrom’s ArmaLite never made the AR-7, so it’s curious as to why he bought a company that did. Here again, only in production for six years, so no first-hand knowledge of how they compare to the others.
This company is still in business and sells parts and accessories for the AR-7 and a few other rifles.

Made in Brooklyn, NY from 1997-2007 and from 2007 to date in Henry’s present location of Bayonne, NJ, Henry made AR-7’s are a departure from the previous manufacturers versions which were all pretty much the same as the original ArmaLite, differing only in color and quality of manufacture. Henry Repeating Arms is a privately held company started by Louis Imperato and his son Anthony. Louis died in 2007 and Anthony runs the company today. Being privately held, he may have bean counters telling him what to do, but there’s no BOD or stockholders making him do it. Henry has achieved a glowing reputation in the years since Anthony has been calling the shots.

Henry received the American Business Stevie Award for exceptional Customer Service in 2016.

One source says Henry acquired the rights to the AR-7, another says the patent had expired and they reverse engineered it. The fact that early Henry marked rifles were silver and that they retained “US Survival” in the name, together with the timeline for the end of the US Survival production and the startup of Henry production suggests that they acquired the rights/tooling/spares. Whichever story is true, Henry made several improvements to the current design and quality is better than from the previous makers.

The stock is now ABS instead of the lesser ordinary plastic of the early versions, which were prone to cracking.

(Edit: After writing this, I discovered that the type of plastic originally used in the ArmaLite made guns, and presumably used by the other makers was trade named Cycolac by Borg Warner, who developed it primarily for telephone cases. Through a series of sales, the technology was sold, but not the trademarked name, and it became known by the generic acronym for its chemical formula of acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, or ABS. There are 50 grades of ABS today, ranging from heat resistant and flame retardant, to several grades of high impact.)

The interior storage compartment has been revised to hold two spare magazines (included with the rifle) instead of one, and unlike with the previous versions, you can store the receiver assembly in the stock with a magazine installed. Gone is the foam filling, and in its place the interior core of the stock has sort of a honeycomb around the perimeter allowing individual cartridges to be inserted into each void. In this manner, you can store an additional 40 or so cartridges inside the stock. That combined with the 24 rounds in three magazines, gives you about 64 rounds on board, which is more than enough for the rifles intended purpose.

Without the foam, the rifle will not float indefinitely like the original, but it will stay afloat for about a minute and a half or so. Long enough to retrieve if dropped overboard. I would like to examine this further and see if the flotation can be improved.
Here is a cutaway showing how the parts stow in the stock.

The receiver is die cast aluminum like the originals, but Henry added a rail to the casting for the attachment of an optic. While it somewhat resembles a picatinny in appearance, it accepts typical 22 style 3/8” tip off mounts. The rear sight is adjustable for elevation and has two aperture sizes to choose from.

Barrels on the ArmaLite, Charter, US Survival, and early Henrys were aluminum with a rifled steel liner. AR-7 Industries used all steel barrels and current Henry production is using a liner in a synthetic barrel covering. So, threading for a can is out for factory barrels unless you have one made by AR-7 Industries, but there is an alternative for the non-ferrous barrels which will be explored later in the review. The front sight is orange plastic and drift adjustable for windage.

The AR-7 magazines are odd in that they incorporate the feed ramp into the front of the magazine rather than as part of the barrel or receiver. Earlier makers magazines pinched the sides of the magazine sidewalls inward at the top to act as feed lips to guide the cartridges and if they ever got bent, you had feeding problems. Henry magazines utilize a formed wire guide in the port side reinforcing rib that locates the top round in the proper place for reliable feeding. Magazine interchangeability between brands seems to be a crapshoot with some peeps reporting good luck using the Henry mags in older guns and some not so much. Issue Henry mags are 8 shot, with 5 shot available. Hi-Cap mags in 10 and 15 shot are available from Triple K and National, but will not fit inside the stock.

Here you can see the wire running up inside the reinforcing groove in the magazine body.

Here is how it guides the cartridge.

The trigger and hammer are made from stampings and the pull is crappy as you would expect. The mating surfaces responsible for pull quality are rough and unpolished resulting in a heavy glitchy feel. As soon as I tried the trigger, I popped off the side plate and stoned the surfaces and lubed with moly grease. Still nowhere near a Geisele, but better than it was. I’m hoping it will improve after it has been shot a bit.

Henry offers the rifle in a black Teflon finish, and two flavors of camo, True Timber-Kanati, and Viper Western. Either of the camos are much more attractive than the black and seem more in line with the intended purpose of a survival rifle. Even if 99% of the rifles are never actually used that way, the camo dresses the AR-7 up a good deal.

What’s in the box:
The AR-7 comes in a cardboard OD green box with a carry handle. Inside are the disassembled/stowed rifle, an owner’s manual, and a small tube of Otis Bio CLP lube. The tube of lube will not fit inside the stock with the rifle components, although once assembled, it could be carried inside together with a bore snake and cleaning brush, all in a zip lock bag.
(This Image is Too Large to Be Displayed Within the Post. Click Link to View) (2128 kB)

I looked around for a suitable case for the disassembled rifle and found that all the pistol cases were too small, and all the rifle cases were too big. Discovered when I was pricing magazines that Henry had the Allen case company make them a zippered rug style case with two pockets on the outside for the AR-7. Each pocket is large enough to hold a brick of ammo with room to spare. The larger pocket has sewn elastic loops to secure 5 magazines. Priced at $25.

Aftermarket Accessories

Here is what I have found in the way of aftermarket items for the AR-7.

Only the <8 shot originals will fit inside the stock. Henry does also offer 5 shot mags on their website though for hunting in states that restricts capacity.
If you shop around, you can find original Henry mags for less than on the website.

Interchangeability between the different brands is problematic. There are 10 and 15 round mags by Triple K and National, but there’s no guarantee they will work in all brands.

AR-7.com offers telescoping and fixed metal stocks using an AR-15 pistol grip.

Ar-7.com has all steel sporter and bull barrels in blued and SS plus some threaded offerings. Cantilever scope mounts for some models too.

Slim River on ebay offers single point and 2 point slings.

Threaded adapter:
This allows you to mount a suppressor to the issue barrel.


Stand by for Part 2, the Range Report.

Part 2.
The Range Report

Finally got to shoot the AR-7 today.

For the TL;DR crowd, here's the Cliff Notes version.
The rifle functions great. I had one FTF which we'll get into in a bit.
The rifle will cycle SV ammo.
The rifle will cycle HP ammo.
The trigger has improved with use. Still not a match trigger, but I consider it acceptable for the rifles intended purpose.
The rifle is accurate with ammo it likes. Technique factors heavily in getting good results though.

I started out by reading the manual that comes with the rifle and as previously mentioned, the rifle needs to be lubricated prior to use. This I did.
I also found the trigger as it came out of the box to be unacceptable. Too heavy and too glitchy. I didn't measure it beforehand, but I'll bet it was 8 lbs. So I stoned it as much as I thought practical. I still did not get out all the surface imperfections. The surfaces are rough and Henry does not appear to do anything to the contact surfaces. The parts look like they had been blanked out and blued without any further finishing.
After today's range session, the trigger now breaks at 3.25lbs. with just a little creep. Not perfect, but I can live with it.
This is pretty simple to do on this trigger and if you own an AR-7 and have moderate mechanical ability, you can DIY.

Several peeps on RFC recommended breaking the rifle in with HV ammo. I had some Federal Lightning in the shooting bag and planned on shooting the 200 rounds most peeps cited. After 50 rounds and no malfunctions, I switched to CCI SV just to see. The rifle cycled it just fine and the rest of the session was fired with several brands of SV ammo. (see pic)

The were only two functioning issues. One was a dud round, (Aguila) and the other was a FTF where the round dug into the edge of the chamber. This was the second round in the mag. The were no other malfunctions of any kind in over 300 rounds fired.

Shooting groups with this rifle off the bench is a challenge. There is no forearm to rest upon and you don't want to rest the barrel in the front bag. What I found worked best was grasping the front of the mag well, and resting my left hand in the bag of the rifle rest. This still isn't a perfect solution, but was the best I could come up with.

The rifle seemed to show a distinct preference for CCI SV, which is fine with me as that's my standard suppressor ammo. Here's the best group it turned in at 50 yds.

CCI Subsonic was not quite as good, but here again, technique factors heavily. The next group might be better.

Gemtech also did well. I only had one box with me, so not as many groups as with the other ammo. Next time I'll take more as this ammo performs extremely well in my 10/22.

One thing to be aware of is that as the rifle heats up, you need to check the barrel nut. Give it a little twist to make sure it's tight every other mag or so until you don't feel it move anymore. I also put a dab of moly grease on these threads. Both the receiver and the nut are aluminum, and a little lube seemed to help.

I do not care for the orange front sight, at least not for trying to shoot off the bench. In the woods it may be better.

All of the above was with the factory Henry barrel. Next, I tried the AR-7.com barrel.

The all steel barrel changes the feel and makes the rifle feel a little less whippy. With the suppressor, you can really hear the action noise and the hollow plastic stock accentuates the sound to your ear. The action has that metallic click-clack sound like a suppressed 10/22 with the steel bolt stop pin, only moreso.

Much to my disappointment, my initial thoughts on suppressor alignment were in error. Looking down the bore seemed to look good, but there was just enough misalignment to cause the bullets to kiss the end cap and go astray. Seating up against the FSB seems to cock the can just enough to cause baffle strikes. So now it's off to the gunsmith to see if he can fab a piece that will provide sufficient seating surface, and proper alignment.
I really hope this issue can be overcome as this rifle's mission would be better fulfilled if suppressed.

Here's a pic of all the ammo brands shot today. The rifle cycled them all just fine. The rifle also went 300+ rounds with out cleaning, in spite of the Henry user manuals recommendation. I will not clean the rifle and see how well it tolerates being dirty in subsequent tests.

(This Image is Too Large to Be Displayed Within the Post. Click Link to View) (1029 kB)

Bottom line.
I'm happy with the rifle overall. The bad rep from poor performance of the Charter Arms examples appears to have been rectified by Henry. The Henry magazines in the Henry rifle function fine.
My biggest objection was the factory trigger, but that can be fixed without much effort.
If I can get the steel barrel fixed to where the suppressor is concentric, I'll do another range report on it.

Working on the flotation issues and making good progress. Stay tuned.


Last edited by FlysAlot; 11-14-2017 at 04:01 PM.
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Old 11-13-2017, 08:43 PM
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Part 3.
Making it Float.

The original ArmaLite Ar-7 had Styrofoam in the stock to ensure flotation, even if the stock itself is not water tight, which was part of their advertising at the time.
Henry does not advertise the rifle as having the ability to float. In spite of this, many youtube and internet peeps still think the current Henry AR-7 is designed to float, but it's not.

Henry's redesign of the stock eliminated the Styrofoam, and thus its only buoyancy comes from whatever air is trapped in the stock.
The stock is made from two half shells that are glued together over the orange interior piece which is molded to fit the rifles components. These seams are not 100% sealed. The biggest leak though is the plastic butt cap. The fit is just not tight enough and there is not a formed gasket to help keep the water out.

My goal was two fold. (1) Try to make the rifle float longer than it does in issue form, which is only a few minutes based on several youtube vids of folks that ain't skeered to throw their new rifle in the pond.
And (2) Try to make it buoyant to the point that it would still float even if it leaks some, so at least you have more than a few minutes before it goes under.

The first thing I did was to determine where it leaked by filling the stock with water and seeing where it leaked out. These points were noted.
Then, I examined the stock to see where the empty spaces were inside. I found that the pistol grip is completely hollow and due to the through bolt, cannot be sealed.

I purchased a product called Flex-Seal, which is available in clear and applied it with a syringe with the tip cut off the needle to the seams where leakage was noted, and to the gap between the orange inner piece and the outer shell. This is a liquid that easily wicks into the cracks, then dries to a rubbery consistency.

For the pistol grip, I removed the through bolt and taped over the hole at the base of the grip. I then filled the space in the grip slowly, from the bottom up with Great Stuff aerosol expanding foam. You must fill very slowly and stop before any foam comes out at the top. The foam will continue to expand filling the entire hollow of the pistol grip. Then you have to stand there with a knife and remove the extrusion so it does not get onto the stock. The solvent for clean-up of the foam is acetone, but acetone will melt the ABS stock, and I'm sure it won't do the camo dip finish any good either.

The foam does two things, it keeps the water out, and it provides buoyancy to aid flotation.

The last thing to tackle was improving the seal at the butt cap. I used ordinary RTV clear silicone for this.

Float test.
I didn't want to get the rifle and magazines wet and have to dry and oil them, so I weighed the parts and filled the stock with an equal weight of cast bullets. The bullets all roll the the back of the stock and are probably why the butt is so low in the water. It will likely float a little more even with the actual rifle inside.

I stated previously that the goal was for 30 minutes being ideal and 15 minutes OK. I was easily able to get 30 minutes, and the small amount of water that did get in means that it would likely make an hour without sinking as well.

The Materials.

The syringe came from Tractor Supply, the rest from Lowe's.

(This Image is Too Large to Be Displayed Within the Post. Click Link to View) (926 kB)

The Weight.

2lbs. 4 oz. for the contents of the stock.

It took 63 245gr. 44 bullets to equal the weight.

(This Image is Too Large to Be Displayed Within the Post. Click Link to View) (905 kB)

Into the water.

After 30 minutes, it's still floating. Even though it looks like it's resting on the bottom, it's actually about 1.5" from touching.

I emptied the bullets into a bucket. After picking out the bullets, this is how much water got into the stock.

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Old 11-13-2017, 10:39 PM
jon p
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excellent review

I don't need a survival rifle but I want one of the henry versions just because it is NEAT and fun. man, you never see a used one, everyone must be keeping theirs. i remember back in the late 1950s/early 1960s building a full size plastic model kit of the AR-7, the original bolt action. wish I still had it, it even broke down just like the real rifle.
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Old 11-14-2017, 07:34 AM
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What a great review! Thanks. Well done, loved the pics too. I like those somewhat offbeat guns, and I may need to go look at one of these. Just because. Your best CCI SV group is pretty good, especially for open sights with that bright orange front sight.
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Old 11-14-2017, 03:54 PM
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Thumbs up More info please

Great Review..

I am a new owner of the Henry AR-7 and found this article informative. I have the new Henry AR-7 with the orange insert in the buttstock.
It came in a black box. I've only made a couple of changes to it.
I bought a solid steel barrel from AR-7 dot com also a compact 4x32 scope and an excellent carrying bag with two barrel pockets, off of Amazon.

I have a few questions that you may be able to answer.

One; how does one get the through bolt out of the pistol grip? And two; is it possible to get the orange insert out of the buttstock?

My reason for asking is I want to fill most of he buttstock with foam and still be able re-insert the orange piece to store the barrel, receiver , etc., in it.

Please see here what I'm trying to accomplish. https://www.rimfirecentral.com/forums...ht=ar+7&page=2

BTW, I do a lot of target shooting (with my other rifles), my AR-7 loves Mini-Mag HPs.
I have a Caldwell "The Rock Jr." Shooting Rest and I've discovered that if I rest the AR-7's barrel lug on the rest the rifle will shoot quite well.
I finally shimmed the gap between the magazine and the trigger guard so no more jamming.

Again, thanks for the review and I hope you can fill in some gaps for me (all pun intended) ;-)
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Old 11-14-2017, 05:08 PM
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That was my first range session with the AR-7. I will experiment with the best way to bench shoot the rifle and see if the groups improve. The way I had to hold it was somewhat make shift, so I'll try resting the barrel nut in the front bag and see what happens on the next range trip.

This is a guess and maybe the member that is a gunsmith at Henry can elaborate, but I'm guessing the the two halves of the stock shell are glued together around the orange core, so I don't think separating them will be easy if possible at all. There is probably not much if any empty spaces in that part of the stock anyway.

Getting the bolt out of the stock is easy. Examine the knob and you will see a tiny roll pin. Rotate the knob so the pin faces up with the stock positioned with the comb down. Tap the roll pin almost all the way out and it will come free of the shaft. The shaft will then fall right out. You can then fill the pistol grip with foam as described in part 3 of the review. After the foam has set up. Use a long thin screwdriver or similar tool to make a hole in the foam and reinstall the through bolt. Align the holes with the aid of a slave pin and gently tap the roll pin back into place.
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